Somewhere along my journey from the bayou to the Big Apple I failed Madames Naquin, Orillion and Benoit. The conversational French I learned under their tutelage over six years in middle school, high school and college gradually washed away like my native south Louisiana’s wetlands, leaving me a stereotypical monolingual American. In my limited encounters with French-speaking tourists in New York City I’ve tried to resurrect the faint heartbeat of my ancestral language, often to their puzzlement, amusement or both. Same goes for when girlfriends, noting my Cajun heritage, request I speak the language of amour, a request more seductive in theory than practice. After all, it’s hard to seduce someone when your language mastery sounds like Quasimodo looks. Il est pas beau, as the French say.
Almost a decade since my last French class the language’s mysterious flame attracts me still even though, when spoken, its words run together like a beam of light, indistinguishable to my ears. When sung the French language hypnotizes me – doubly so when it is sung over a dance beat. Case in point: Christine and The Queens’s aching single “Saint Claude”. I have no idea what Heloise Letissier is saying, save for her English-speaking chorus, and yet I find her emphasis on certain words beautiful. Yesterday, I listened to “Saint Claude” a dozen times or more, addicted to Letissier’s syrupy cadence and eager to pick out words I knew. I watched the song’s video on repeat too, mesmerized by her Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves.
C’est officiel: J’aime Christine et Les Reines.